Kent State Professor Weighs in on New Research Regarding Burnout

What makes a person pursue a reward? And what makes one give up, when that reward becomes too much of a challenge? What causes that burnout?

Researchers from the University of Washington and Washington University, along with other collaborators, are seeking answers to those questions.
Lique Coolen, Ph.D., comments on research about mental burn-out.
They studied the brains of mice to identify what causes them to stop seeking a reward — in essence, what makes them burn out. 

In a study published in “Cell” in July, the findings show that burnout is traced to “a set of cells in the brain that seem to drive the urge to give up,” according to a recent article in “Inverse” that explores the study’s findings.

Kent State University professor Lique Coolen, Ph.D., a neurobiologist and associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, was among those quoted in the article.

In the study, “the scientists found that a little-understood neuromodulator, nociceptin, was behind this demotivation loop. Neuromodulators are chemicals in the brain that researchers liken to the dimmer on a light switch,” the article states. 

In the case of the mice who gave up pursuing a reward of sugar water, “nociceptin’s increasing presence was making it harder for dopamine, a chemical associated with the pleasurable feeling of getting a reward, to do its job,” according to the Inverse article.

Coolen, who studies the impact of social experiences on addiction, was stated in the article saying the research could have huge implications for neurobiological understanding of the demotivation system, particularly in regard to drug abuse. 

“Most of the research has been focused on what drives the goal-directed behavior,” Coolen states in the “Inverse” article. “I think this is some of the first evidence that there is this system in place that actively inactivates this [dopamine] system and therefore dampens the motivation.”

To read the entire article, visit

To learn more about Kent State’s Brain Health Research Institute, visit:


POSTED: Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - 1:41pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - 3:45pm
Lisa Abraham